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Full text of "Byzantine Churches In Constantinople"

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iv                         THE CHURCH OF S. IRENE                        89
magnificent scheme of Justinian the Great to build on the wilderness of ashes created by his rebel subjects the finest monuments of his empire. And so S. Irene rose from its ruins, the largest sanctuary in Constantinople, except S. Sophia.1 The bricks bearing the mark  the Great Church,' MeyaXij 5E/c/cX^<r/a, which are built into a raised bank against the northern wall of the atrium, afford no indication of the date when S. Irene was rebuilt. The bank is of comparatively recent origin.2
In the month of December 564, the thirty-seventh year of Justinian's reign, another great fire threatened to destroy the buildings which that emperor had erected in the quarter of the city beside S. Sophia. The hospital of Sampson was again burnt down ; the atrium of the Great Church, known as the Garsonostasion, suffered ; two monasteries close to S. Irene perished, and, what most concerns us, the atrium and part of the narthex of S. Irene itself were consumed.8 How soon these injuries were repaired is not recorded.
During the 176 years that followed the reconstruction of the church by Justinian, S. Irene does not appear in history. But in 740 it was injured by the earthquake which shook Constantinople in the last year of the reign of Leo III. the Isaurian.4 Theophanes5 is very precise in regard to the time when the disaster occurred ; it was on the 26th of October, the ninth indiction, on a Wednesday, at eight o'clock. The damage done both in the city and in the towns of Thrace and Bithynia was terrible. In Nicaea only one church was left standing, while Constantinople deplored the ruin of large portions of the landward fortifications and the loss of many churches, monasteries, and public monuments. S. Irene was then shaken, and, as the examination of the building by Mr. George has proved, sustained most serious injuries. The Emperor Leo died about six months after the disaster, and it is therefore uncertain whether the church was rebuilt before his death. His first attention was
1  Procop. De aed. i. c. 2 5 Pasch. Chron, p. 622.
2  For this information I am indebted to Mr. W. S, George.
3  Theoph, p. 371.
4  Patr. Nicephorus, in Breviario.            6 Theoph, p. 634.